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It seems like nearly every year, a school foolishly decides to exclude a student from the yearbook, not because of any horrific criminal activity, but because of her choice of clothing.
This year, Lincoln High School, in Stockton, California, excluded Crystal Cumplido's senior portrait from the yearbook because she wore a tuxedo instead of the low cut shoulder bearing drape required for girls. But not only was her picture excluded, no mention of Cumplido could be found in the yearbook, not even in the index.
When will schools learn?
Excluding a student from a yearbook may sound harmless, but schools should realize that they may be breaking some laws.
Title IX of the Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act protects minorities from discrimination in employment, housing, and education. More specifically, Title IX of the Act states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
While Title IX is more often applied in the context of sports, it can apply to other school activities, including being in the school yearbook. Lincoln High School excluded Cumplido from the yearbook specifically because of her gender and her non-compliance with gender stereotypes.
Many states have laws that prohibit discrimination based upon gender identity and expression.
California's Gender Nondiscrimination Act clarified existing non-discrimination law to include prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression. For example, under the law, employers are allowed to implement separate dress codes for men and women. However, the employer must allow the employee to wear the uniform that corresponds with that person's gender identity.
So, while Lincoln High School is allowed to require tuxes for boys and drapes for girls, they could not discriminate against Cumplido for wanting to wear the tux.
Even though Lincoln High School should not have excluded Cumplido in the first place, it is great to hear that the District's Superintendent recognizes the school's mistake and is offering to republish all of the school's yearbooks to include Cumplido and her tux.
If you have been discriminated against because of your gender identity, consult with an experienced discrimination lawyer for help.